The fire in view on Aug. 29. Photo courtesy Facebook, Vanessa Linklater-McCallum.

Residents of several northeast Saskatchewan communities have been forced to make the best of a bad situation patiently waiting for word on when it is safe to go home. Last Tuesday, evacuation orders went out when three fires started closing in on Pelican Narrow, Sandy Bay, Birch Portage and Jan Bay. Crews are protecting property, but the air is not yet safe to breathe.

On the upside officials say the winds have died down a bit from the weekend.

However, the weather has mostly been against the emergency crews; strong shifting winds, hot temperatures and no rain.

Only about 300 people remain in Pelican Narrows.  Others have headed to shelters, hotels and homes in Prince Albert and Saskatoon. Buses with escorts are still getting out, but Highway 135 is closed to traffic.

The fire situation at Sandy Bay and Pelican Narrows remains stable.  So far, about 2,400 people have been evacuated.

Most are being looked after by Social Services, although some are staying with friends and relatives in Prince Albert and Saskatoon.

According to Steve Roberts, the executive director of Wildfire Management, nothing much has changed in the position of the fires over the weekend.

“We have secured the flank, but we have concerns that the fires are adjacent to the communities, so we are still treating it as a direct threat fire,” said Roberts.

The agenda moving forward, according to Roberts, will be to protect the communities as well as any vital infrastructure.

The head of Emergency Management, Duane McKay, says with the hot and dry weather the provincial fire ban will remain in place. He is urging everyone in Saskatchewan to take extra caution when dealing with fires.

“The threat level is very very high,” said McKay. “Most fires that we see are started accidentally, but they spread very rapidly.”

Highway 135 and 106 and SaskPower lines are threatened by the fires. Currently, 290 personnel are in the north helping battle the fires.

Officials are in the process of helping locals get proper certification, so they can help fight the fires as well.